"We don't eliminate the old, such as the resume and cover letter, but we do need to venture out into the new and use those [tools] as well," said Helen Trimble, career development director for MIT's System Design and Management Program (SDM), who introduced the presentation, which was co-sponsored by SDM and the newly formed MIT Social Media Club. Hosts for the event were SDM Fellows Rafael Maranon, Azamat Abdymomunov and Leyla Abdimomunova. Other members of the team that spearheaded the event included Trimble and SDM's communications director Lois Slavin.
Featured presenters Nancy Richmond, MIT's assistant director of career counseling and exploration, and Jeff Moore, lead engineering recruiter for Google, explored the value of using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and blogs to get and stay connected to a wide range of professional contacts.
"Why do this instead of a business card?" Richmond asked. "Because people move around. Every three to four years, people move to new jobs." Making contacts electronically keeps the "Rolodex" up to date, she said.
Moore stressed the importance of using every tool available for job searches — including social media. "You never know when you're going to need a new job," he said. "Apply online, reach out to friends, network with fellow alumni ... Do everything you can to make sure your resume is seen by the people who need to see it."
Richmond noted that it's not enough just to start a LinkedIn or Facebook account — you have to use it. "If you're not having conversations with people and you're just connected, you're not really getting the value. You need to participate in discussions," she said.
"The trick is sharing information that's relevant to your career goals," said Moore, who pointed out that writing a blog about your dog, for example, is not as likely to impress a recruiter as writing one about the latest developments in your field.
Moore suggested that reading blogs and other posts online is a good first step for those new to social media. "Find like-minded people and watch what they do," he said, noting that for the first three months that he was on Twitter, all he did was "listen."
While touching upon the use of other social media, both Moore and Richmond concentrated their remarks on the use of LinkedIn, which is more business-oriented than Facebook or Twitter, suggesting that joining LinkedIn is a good first step for those new to social media.
Richmond offered a number of tips for people getting started on LinkedIn, including:
- Fill out your profile page completely
- Personalize requests for connections
- Don't try to connect to people who don't know you
- Don't reject requests — simply ignore or archive them
- Join groups and participate in discussions
Both Richmond and Moore stressed that it isn't necessary to spend a lot of time and energy on social media; just steadily include it among other tasks, like checking e-mail.
"If you start today, you'll get there," Moore said, noting the value of connecting to a broad community. "I'm at a point in my social network where I feel like I could find someone within a degree or two at any company in the world."